EasyJet is proposing to close three of its UK bases, which would likely result in the loss of thousands of jobs – including more than 700 pilot roles according to pilots union Balpa.
Formal consultation on the proposals got under way on Tuesday (30 June); it comes after easyJet said in May it may need to reduce its 15,000-strong workforce by up to 30% owing to the effects of the coronavirus crisis, as well as optimise its route network and base structure.
The airline is proposing to close its bases at Stansted, Southend and Newcastle. All three would, however, remain part of its route network.
EasyJet said it had taken "decisive action" to reduce costs and non-critical expenditure "at every level" of the business, while securing cash headroom worth in excess of £2 billion, including a £600 million commercial loan from the government’s Covid Corporate Financing Facility.
Balpa said it was "shocked" at the size of potential job losses, branding it an "excessive over-reaction", but easyJet said it did not expect demand to recover to 2019 levels until 2023, citing projections from Iata.
“These are very difficult proposals to put forward in what is an unprecedented and difficult time for the airline and the industry as a whole," said easyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren. "We are focused on doing what is right for the company and its long term health and success so we can protect jobs going forward.
“Unfortunately, the lower demand environment means we need fewer aircraft and have less opportunity for work for our people – we are committed to working constructively with our employee representatives across the network with the aim of minimising job losses as far as possible.
“These proposals are no reflection on our people at Stansted, Southend and Newcastle, who have all worked tirelessly and have been fully committed to providing great service for our customers.”
EasyJet has engaged Balpa and the Unite union, and says it has informed all employees who may be affected by the proposals. "[We] will be providing full support to our people during this difficult time," said the carrier in a statement.
"We are fully committed to working closely with our employee representatives during these consultations with the aim of minimising job losses as far as possible."
According to Balpa, 727 pilots are at risk of redundancy. "Balpa is shocked at the size of potential job losses, which equates to nearly one-in-three easyJet pilots in the UK," said the union.
General secretary Brian Strutton added: “We know aviation is in the midst of the Covid crisis, and we had been expecting easyJet to make an announcement of temporary measures to help the airline through to recovery.
“But this seems an excessive over-reaction, and easyJet won’t find a supply of pilots waiting to come back when the recovery takes place over the next two years."
EasyJet plans to operate more than 900 weekly flights to and from 14 UK airports from 1 July, and hopes to serve 75% of its route network by August.